Friday, May 4, 2012

The Last cavalry Charge

The cavalry had been the mainstay of the army for close to 2500 years. Nostalgic poems like the “Charge of the light brigade” were written by Lord Tennyson. At the out break of World War I many old timers still felt the cavalry had a role to play, though a few knowledgeable pundits opined that the days of the cavalry were over. But the pro cavalry lobby had its way and they transported some one million horses and mules to France from the colonies like Canada and India. The famed Deccan horse also made its way from Pune in India. The old timers felt that the horses would be used for the charge of the German positions. All this is explicitly brought out in the movie “War Horse” screened recently. This movie by Steven Spielberg is a real gem. At the start of the battle a few cavalry charges did take place but the riders and the horses were cut down by German machine gun fire. It became apparent to most generals that cavalry had seen its day. The horse could not negotiate the trenches and the barbed wire fences that had been erected on the battle field. But still some die hard generals persisted and it is on record that in 1916 during the battle of the Somme, the 7th Dragoon Guards rode with their horses and swords against the German lines manned by machine guns. It was a veritable slaughter and 90% of the men charging the German lines perished. That made the generals look up and the horse led cavalry charge was simply stopped. The Deccan horse also took part in the charge at the Battle of Somme again with disastrous results. Out of a million horses and mules in France only about 60,000 survived. It was a colossal massacre, but it was the swan song of the cavalry as the horse was replaced by the tank